Causes of Infertility in Women

What are the causes of infertility?

There are a number of causes of infertility.  And, in about one-third cases of infertility, the cause is never identified. At times, lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking may cause infertility.

 What are the causes of infertility in women?

According to experts, ovulation disorder is a common cause of infertility in women.  Ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from your  ovaries every month.  When a woman’s ovaries are not able to develop a mature egg for fertilization, it is termed as ovulation disorder.  It is also known as anovulation. Anovulation can be because of:

Premature Ovarian Failure is also known as Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. The condition refers to the functional loss of ovaries much before attaining menopause. When the ovaries fail, they are not able to produce a balanced amount of estrogen hormone or release eggs recurrently. Infertility, thus, is the common result. Some people think that the medical condition can be termed as premature menopause.  No, No.  The two conditions are different. Some women may have occasional or irregular periods for years and she may even achieve pregnancy.  But premature menopause is the condition when women stop having periods.  That means they will not menstruate and release any egg.  And, pregnancy cannot happen. Premature Ovarian Failure complications,  like osteoporosis, can be managed by restoring estrogen levels in a woman. But it is difficult to treat infertility.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a serious disease wherein a woman’s hormones get imbalanced. The problem may interfere with the regular menstruation and  cause difficulties in achieving pregnancy. If left untreated over a period, the syndrome causes other health problems such as diabetes and  even heart disease. Most of the women suffering PCOS may develop tiny cysts on their ovaries.  That is the reason it is known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. These cysts, as such,  do not cause any harm, but may lead to hormone imbalances. Both early detection and treatment goes a long way in controlling the symptoms and preventing long-term effects. Hormones are, in fact, chemical messengers that activate many varied processes such as helping growth and energy production, including growth and energy production. More than often, the task of one hormone is to give the signal to release another hormone. For reasons unknown until now, in PCOS condition, the hormones get imbalanced.  One change in the hormone affects another and that another affects yet another.  Thus a chaos in the hormonal functioning. Here are some examples: The ovaries generally make a little amount of male sex hormones called androgens. In the condition like PCOS the sex hormones get imbalanced and start making extra androgens. This causes ovulating problems and the other issues like acne and growth of extra facial and body hair. Similarly, in a condition like insulin resistance when the body is not able to use insulin properly, blood sugar goes up. Over a period of time, your chance of getting diabetes will increase. The causes for the PCOS are not fully known. But the experts opine that the problem is genetic and runs in the families. Your chance of developing PCOS will be higher if women in your family already have it or are facing irregular periods or diabetes. The syndrome may be passed down from either your father or mother’s side.

  • Hyperprolactinemia

The hormone, Prolactin, found in women’s blood stimulates the milk production. It is found in small amounts in a woman’s blood who is not pregnant.  The quantity of this hormone increases as the woman gets pregnant  and after delivering a baby. Hyperprolactinemia is a medical condition when a woman is not pregnant yet excessive prolactin is found in her blood cells. With excessive prolactin the woman begins producing milk and experience Galactorrea (milk production when not pregnant). These women not only experience  irregular menstruation, but also in some case no ovulation. A benign tumor growing on the pituitary gland is a common cause of developing hyperprolactinemia. This gland  is located in the brain-base just near the vision center and produces prolactin. Certain kinds of medications may also cause hyperprolactinemia. Sometimes, the cause is not at all identifiable.

  • Poor egg quality

The quality of the eggs a woman produces has a direct link with her fertility.  If the eggs are damaged the pregnancy does not happen. The eggs with genetic abnormalities will not be able to withstand a pregnancy. The egg quality also depends on the age of the woman.  The older woman will have more chances of developing abnormal or damaged egg.

  • Thyroid Disorders

A new study has revealed that Thyroid Disorders may cause major reproductive problems in a woman. The report creators are of the opinion that testing for thyroid problem is of utmost importance for women who are facing infertility and suffered repeated pregnancy loss. The research released on Jan. 23, 2015 in The Obstetrician & Gynecologist, has found that nearly 2.3 percent of women facing infertility had an hyperthyroidism  also known as overactive thyroid. These women also face menstrual irregularities, the researchers said. The functional abnormalities in thyroid can have an undesirable effect on the  reproductive health of a woman. She is confronted  with less chance of conceiving and increased risk of miscarriage, co-author of the study Amanda Jefferys has been quoted saying this in one of the journal news releases. Amanda Jefferys is a researcher at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in England. The British researchers believe that the functional deficiencies in thyroid can have a significant effect on a woman’s reproductive system. It may cause problems  in conceiving and during the pregnancy with the increased risk of miscarriage. Similar to hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) also affects about 0.5 percent of women of the reproductive age. The condition is linked to achieving delayed sexual maturity, the researchers say. Hypothyroidism is  associated with  menstruation and ovulation  problems in adult women, the new study reports. The researchers also have reported that thyroid disease is linked to a number of infertility issues such as  miscarriage risk and preeclampsia (in this condition, the woman will have high blood pressure and excessive protein in urine), poor growth of the fetus, premature and even still-birth.

  • Chronic diseases or infections

 Chronic diseases like cancer and HIV cause infertility. Besides, sexually transmitted diseases or infections, like Gonorrhea and Chamlydia may render you infertile.

  • Problem in the Uterus or Fallopian tubes

As we know, the egg journeys from the ovary through Fallopian Tubes where it gets fertilized and reaches the uterus (womb) to grow as a baby. If there is something wrong in the uterus or the Fallopian tubes the woman may not be able to achieve pregnancy naturally. This may be because of:

  • Surgery

Pelvic surgery  at times can cause not only scarring, but also damage the Fallopian tubes. Similarly, the cervical surgery occasionally may cause scarring and reduction of the cervix  size. The cervix is actually the neck of the womb.

About 30%  to 40% women in the childbearing age suffer from benign and non-cancerous tumors in the muscular wall of the womb. These tumors, called submuscosal uterine fibroids,  create difficulties in embryo implantation in the uterus. And, even sometimes block the Fallopian tubes with the result that the sperm are unable to enter and fertilize the egg.  If the submuocosal uterine fibroids are large, they make the uterus cavity bigger.  Thus, the journey of the sperm  in the semen becomes longer and many of them die before reaching the destination.

Endometrial  cells are one of the main causes of infertility in wthis medical condition, the endometrial cells that  are supposed to grow within the uterus begin growing elsewhere in or on other parts of the body.

  • Previous sterilization treatment

In some cases of avoiding pregnancy, a woman decides  to get her Fallopian tubes blocked. Later on, if she decides to reverse the process, her fertility cannot be restored to the earlier level of unblocked Fallopian tubes. But a study conducted by Dr. Gary S. Berger, Medical Director of Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center says that the tubal reversal surgery may give higher pregnancy results and is less costly than that of IVF.

  • Medications

There are a number of prescribed and over-the-counter drugs that seriously affect a woman’s fertility. They are:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

It is harder for a woman who has been taking aspirin or ibuprofen for a long time.

  • Chemotherapy

In chemotherapy, some of the medicines are used that may result in ovarian failure.  In some of the cases, this kind of side effect is permanent.

  • Radiotherapy

If the radiation therapy is focused on the woman’s reproductive organs, there is a greater risk for her to induce fertility problems.

  • Other illegal drugs

The women who consume marijuana or cocaine run a higher risk of fertility problems.

Gene that explains infertility

A news report  that appeared in the Medical News Today has claimed that scientists from the University of Edinburgh have got a breakthrough in finding a gene  that controls the vital process of forming healthy fertile eggs.

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part I: What is Infertility

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part II: 11- risk factors of  both male and female infertility?

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part III: What are Female Infertility risk factors

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part IV: What are Male Infertility risk factors

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part VI: What are causes of Male Infertility?

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part VIII: Infertility Symptoms in Men

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part IX: Infertility Treatment in India

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part X: Evaluating Female Infertility

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XI: Evaluating Male Infertility

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XII: What infertility treatments are available?

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XIII: Male Infertility Treatments and drugs

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XIV: Female Infertility Treatments

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XV: Assisted Reproductive

Technology Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XVI:  Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XVII: Intrauterine Insemination

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XVIII: Zygote Intrafallopian

Transfer (ZIFT) Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XX: Ovulation Induction (OI)

Infertility Treatment FAQs – Part XXI:  Sperm Morphology

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